The Society for Jewish Art is a non-profit organization devoted to promoting the knowledge of Jewish art in Israel through courses, teacher education programs, seminars and conferences. Since its establishment in 1979, the Society for Jewish Art has initiated many outreach and educational programs which continue to grow and develop. In addition to its various activities, the Society for Jewish Art publishes numerous items, notably Rimonim, the only Hebrew periodical of its kind devoted solely to Jewish art and culture. The Society organizes yearly seminars for Russian artists and educators and has cultivated a steadily growing community of individuals educated in Jewish art. The venue for these seminars alternates between Israel and the Commonwealth of Independent States. See "Education" for more on this program.
Every year, the Society for Jewish Art holds a two-day conference featuring lectures, performances and presentations organized around a particular topic. The annual event attracts both the professional and the lay audience.
In 2000-2001, the conferences took place at the Bible Lands Museum. The 2000 seminar, coordinated by Prof. Bezalel Narkiss and Ariella Amar, was devoted to “Customs and Beliefs in Jewish Art.” Scholars in a variety of disciplines explored different aspects of folk beliefs through the lens of Jewish art. Prof. Yair Zakovitch, Dean of Humanities at the Hebrew University opened the conference and spoke about "Folk Beliefs within Religion in the Bible," Other sessions were devoted to Magic, the Dybbuk and Satan, and Amulets and Rituals.
“Praise Him with Tambourine and Dance,” the 2001 seminar, was organized by Dr. Naomi Feuchwanger-Sarig. It featured art historians, musicologists, ethnographers and architects who gathered over the two-day period to explore the effects of the art of music and dance on various Jewish arts media such as synagogue design and book illumination. Prof. Eliahu Schleifer of the Hebrew Union College opened the conference with a lecture on "The Role of Music in Judaism." Other sessions explored visual depictions of music-making and musical instruments in the works of Chagall, illuminated manuscripts and ancient coins. Presentations were made on dance and synagogue music--choral and instrumental-- in different communities and the effects of music on synagogue design.
“My Heart is in the East and I am in the Uttermost West”-- Yehudah HaLevi’s (c.1080-1141) famous words, was the title of the 2002 conference, thirty-fourth in the series, which focused on the effects of Spanish and Oriental art and music on contemporary Jewish culture. The conference, coordinated by Prof. Bezalel Narkiss and Ariella Amar, took place at the Hebrew Union College in Jerusalem and featured a musical performance of Ladino songs by Kokhava Levi and an exhibit of paintings by Elisheva Shitrit entitled “Memories of Morocco.” The fifth President of Israel Yitzhak Navon, a well-known ambassador of Sephardi culture, welcomed all the participants. Dr. Ariel Hirschfeld opened the conference with a lecture on "Agnon and Zionist Orientalism."
In the final forum, several institutions presented their recent work combining Jewish art with education. For example Nurit Bank from the Israel Museum, Moshe Za'afrani, Dr. Naomi Yaffe, Dr. Naomi Cassuto and Rachel Sabag from different units of the Ministry of Education.
Annual Conference on the Hebrew Word
In May 2000 the Society for Jewish Art joined the Emunah’s Department of Communications, the Ministry of Education's Department of Religious Culture and in co-organizing the Ninth Annual Conference of the Hebrew Word. Focusing on “The Prayerbook and its Design, Past, Present and Future,” the conference brought together both artists and scholars devoted to Jewish book arts. In 2001, this conference focused exclusively on megillot.
For more information about the Society, its publications and activities contact Amia Boasson at 02-588-2280 or by e-mail.